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Archive for the ‘Henry Hathaway’ Category

There’s been some speculation on this one. Is it actually coming? Will it be widescreen? Has Fox dumped it MOD program? Movies Unlimited now has it listed for pre-order with a release date of December 16. And they say it’ll be widescreen — good news, since the CinemaScope picture is unwatchable pan-and-scan.

From Hell To Texas (1958, also known at The Hell Bent Kid and The Manhunt) is a very good late-50s Western from Henry Hathaway, one that has never received the attention it deserves. Don Murray is excellent as the young man on the run, and he’s backed by a terrific cast: Diane Varsi, Chill Wills, Dennis Hopper, R.G. Armstrong and Jay C. Flippen.

This is the film that lead to Dennis Hopper being blackballed in Hollywood for nearly 10 years.

Dennis Hopper: “[Hathaway]’d give you line readings. I was now trying to ‘live in the moment’ and doing things without preconceived ideas, and I walked off the picture three times on location. He’d beg me to come back… So the last day on the picture… He said ‘We’re gonna do this scene till you do it my way’… we started about eight o’clock in the morning. Around eleven at night, after 85 takes, I finally cracked, and said ‘Okay, tell me what you want to do.’ I did it, then I walked out. It wasn’t like somebody sent a black ball around after that, but word got around that I wasn’t somebody you wanted to work with. Soon after that, I was dropped from my contract at Warner Bros. I went back to New York and I studied with Strasberg for five years. I didn’t have another major role in a studio picture for nearly 10 years, until Hathaway hired me again for The Sons Of Katie Elder in ’65.”*

* From an interview that appeared in Venice magazine.

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INSP TV is adding The High Chaparral to its stable of shows, and kicking things off with a marathon on September 15. This has me thinking about Cameron Mitchell, who played Buck Cannon throughout the show’s run.

Mitchell had a pretty incredible career, beginning with offers to pitch for the major leagues — which he turned down to pursue acting — and serving as an Air Force bombardier in World War II. He played Happy Loman in Death Of A Salesman both on Broadway and film. Then there’s his film credits: John Ford’s They Were Expendable (1945), Command Decision (1947), House Of Bamboo (1955), Monkey On My Back (1957). Ride In The Whirlwind (1966, a great film) — even the voice of Christ in The Robe (1953).

Henry Hathaway, Mitchell and Susan Hayward at work on Garden Of Evil (1954).

He was very visible in 50s Westerns, too. Man In The Saddle (1951), Powder River (1953), Garden Of Evil (1954) and Tension At Table Rock (1956, above with Richard Egan), to name a few. Then came a busy period in Europe that resulted in Mario Bava’s Blood And Black Lace (1964), Minnesota Clay (1964) and Knives Of The Avenger (1966), among others.

But it’s probably The High Chaparral (1967-1971) for which he’s best known.

He did some really terrible horror films in the 70s and 80s — The Toolbox Murders (1978) is atrocious — and he worked steadily on TV. (Name a show, and there’s a good chance he was on it at least once.) What always struck me was that he never seemed to walk through a part. He was too professional for that, the perfect example of a working actor. And while it sometimes seems beside the point, he was good. And quite often, as in Ride In The Whirlwind or The High Chaparral, he was excellent.

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